There has been a particular “toy” that I’d been obsessing over for several months. I wanted it so bad. It's something I have always wanted to do and learn but I finally decided now was the time. A motorcycle – particularly a “dual-sport” bike so I could ride on both roads and trails. Well two weeks ago my wish came true when I found the perfect bike on my local craigslist for a great price and only an hour away.
I had only ridden a motorcycle two or three times before in my life, only about 5 minutes each time, but for some reason I still pictured myself jumping on this new bike and ripping around like a pro. The motocross guys my boyfriend watches on youtube make it look so easy! It turned out to be a bit harder than I expected. One hour into my first afternoon of riding I had already wrecked into a creek and busted a turn signal off.
Several more days and hours of riding later, I still have a ton to learn, but I’m not wrecking into creeks anymore. What helped me the most was thinking about riding my horses and finding parallels between the two sports. The most important of these was to relax. I tell this to my students at the farm all the time, and how important having a calm mind and relaxed muscles are to being successful horseback. But here I was on the bike – arms braced, legs tight, and fiercely squeezing the handlebars. With my body so stiff, I couldn’t move effectively or readjust my balance. As soon as I relaxed, the turns and figure eights I was practicing immediately got better. Another important skill for riding the bike was looking ahead, not down, and especially not at what I was worried about running into – this one is certainly true on the horses as well.
Sharp turns and swerving still mess me up now and then, because when I’m riding the horses I don’t lean, but I do still weight the seat bone of the direction I am turning in and the horses move under that, so on the bike I started thinking “weight the seat bone” as I went through a turn and my steering improved dramatically. Too much movement with the hands on a horse or a bike is a bad thing!
Learning to ride my motorcycle is also reminding me of something else that is important about learning a new skill, and it’s this: you don’t really know something until you can do it automatically, without thinking. Just as I tell my riders to practice shortening the reins so that, in an emergency, they automatically shorten the reins instead of just yanking their hands back, I’m going to need more time riding my bike before I can stop without running through a mental checklist of clutch, shift down, apply front brake and rear brake… this is true with many new skills, I believe it takes lots of consistent practice before a new skill becomes habit – and of course we want to be sure we are creating the right habits!
So now it’s your turn! I know that many of my readers here also have bikes and are far better at riding them than I am – any tips or other parallels you think of? Is there another activity, such as skiing or running, which you find similar in some ways to riding?
I will see you in the comments!